How to Praise a Child With Words
If encouragements are so useful, does it mean that you should praise your son or daughter lavishly, and they will then be so motivated that you will never have to worry about them not working hard in school?
1. Praise Sincerely And Honestly
We sometimes praise our children purposely to boost their self-esteem, motivate them, encourage certain behavior, or protect them from hurtful feelings. However, if encouraging words are not perceived as sincere and honest, children won’t feel very encouraged 1 .
Encouraging words that are inconsistent with self-view may be perceived as insincere. These encouraging words are discounted when children think about their own behavior that is contrary to the praise (“That’s not true. I actually wasn’t that good.”). Such encouragement can lead to children’s self-criticism and even intentional sabotage to resolve such discrepancies.
Effusive or overly general encouragement may also be perceived as insincere because the more general the praise, the less likely it is consistent with the existing facts. (“I’m not an angel. I didn’t do my homework last night.”)
|You’re a genius for solving that problem! (“Genius? I only got one out of three questions!”)||You came up with an excellent answer for the last question.|
|What an angel you are! (“I’m an angel for sharing a cookie? What about not doing homework last night?”)||It’s generous of you to share your cookie.|
|You did very well. I’m sure you will do well again next time. (manipulate)||I love the solution you came up with.|
2. Be Specific And Descriptive
Instead of sweeping words of encouragement, praise children using descriptive and specific words. The less general or generic the encouragement, the more likely it is factually correct and perceived as sincere.
3. Praise Children’s Efforts And The Process, Not Their Achievement or Ability
One reason human is the smartest animal on Earth is that we want to learn and understand the cause and effect of matters. How we attribute to events affects how we think of and respond to future events 6 .
When children are praised for their efforts in doing a task, they learn to attribute success to their efforts. Because effort is a quality that we all have the power to control and improve, these children will therefore focus more on putting in the effort to practice or develop skills than on pursuing results per se.
This type of mastery encouragement helps children adopt a growth mindset which allows children to believe in practicing and improving skills. Such a learning mindset can increase kids’ intrinsic motivation, persistence, and enjoyment 4 .
When facing failure, these children believe that they have failed because they simply have not tried hard enough. The failure will be avoidable if they put in more hard work. So these kids are motivated to try again and they tend to improve in performance 7 . They are more resilient and do not crumble when they fail.
On the other hand, children praised for abilities attribute success to their abilities rather than their own effort. Such encouraging words for kids do tend to negatively affect children in two different ways.
For example, praising a child smart for a good grade may cause them to want to continue to prove that they are intelligent through good performance 8 . This may motivate children who have succeeded to do more and try harder.
However, researchers have found that these children are also more likely to sacrifice potentially valuable learning opportunities if these opportunities hold the risk of making mistakes and do not ensure outstanding performance. These children reject new learning to preserve their “smart”. Once these children encounter failure in the praised domain, they also quit faster.
Ability praise sent a subtle message that previous success was because of the praised traits. Failure then implies a lack of fixed ability. Children who carry this fixed mindset give up trying more easily when things become difficult. They suffer from achievement-based helplessness 9,10 . Those who cannot recover to try again after experiencing failure lack the resilience needed to succeed in life.
The 3 types of praise
There are three main types of praise that teachers most often use: personal praise, effort-based praise, and behavior-specific praise. Two of these three are found to be more effective than the other.
This type of praise tends to focus on natural talents or skills that come easily to students, rather than the effort they put in or the techniques they use. For example, a teacher might say to a student, “You have such a beautiful singing voice!” Research has shown that this kind of praise may backfire. When students feel their abilities are outside of their control and just part of who they are, they may think they don’t have the ability to improve.
This is especially true of struggling learners who aren’t as confident in their abilities and skills. Personal praise can make students less willing to risk trying new things for fear of revealing just how little talent they think they have.
This type of praise emphasizes what students can control. Think back to the student with the beautiful singing voice. The student likely worked hard to learn the difficult key changes in a song or to memorize the lyrics. The time spent and the strategies used are within the student’s control.
That’s why effort-based praise, such as “I am so impressed at how hard you worked to sing that song without the music and lyrics in front of you,” is more empowering than “You have such a beautiful singing voice!”
This type of praise lets students know what they are doing correctly. It’s an evidence-based classroom management strategy that focuses on providing specific feedback to describe your approval of student behavior. To give behavior-specific praise, you clearly tell students what they’ve done correctly. For example, if you have a student for whom organization is an issue, you could say, “Nice work getting your homework out of your homework folder first thing this morning.”
Both effort-based and behavior-specific praise genuinely acknowledge your students’ efforts and achievements. When your students feel that you’re honestly showing approval and telling them what they did well, they’re more willing to continue to work hard and look for effective strategies to overcome obstacles.
More Appreciation Letter Samples Listed By Type
It is a good idea to review the appreciation letter and email examples below before writing your own. Samples can help you see what kind of content you should include in your letter. Examples can also help you with the layout and format of your letter.
Job Search Appreciation Letters: Although many people think that a job search is merely a process of submitting an application to a job announcement, the truth is that many employees get hired because of their connections – colleagues, business associates, or instructors who have recommended them for the job or otherwise helped them through networking. Here’s how to express your appreciation to those who have helped you during all phases of your career search.
How to Thank an Employer or Colleague: There are many opportunities when it is politic (as well as polite) to thank an employer, beginning when they’ve taken the time to interview you for a position. After you’re hired, help to build the morale of your boss, your colleagues, or (if you are in management), your employees by taking the time to thank them in writing when they’ve gone the extra mile to support you in the workplace.
Thank-you Letters for a Referral: Professional referrals can make all the difference in whether you are considered for a job or whether you successfully source and land a major client. If you are a business person who depends upon referrals to build your pipeline, these notes of appreciation will help to ensure that people who have referred your services will continue to do so.